Here's who our panel selected.
November 28, 2023 by Sean Colfer in Rankings with 0 comments
This season was packed in Europe. We had a couple of new (or rebranded) tournaments in the Spring and Elite Invites, then the World Under-24 Championships in Nottingham, UK, and the European Ultimate Championships in Limerick, Ireland followed by the traditional curtain call on the season, EUCF in Wroclaw, Poland. The World Championships of Beach Ultimate were a late-season addition, too. With so many chances to look at the top players, it’s a perfect time to see how observers see the best players on the continent.
The two pre-season favorites dominated the big tournaments this season. Germany women won EUC without dropping a game, while reigning champions BFD Shout (Bologna) won EUCF despite a shock loss in the first game to box (Vienna). Both did so in ways we might not have expected at the start of the season, though. Germany lost their best offensive player during EUC, but someone stepped up and became the center of an unstoppable offense. Shout have long been one of the deepest teams in Europe but this season, with additions from around Europe and some exciting internal development, it almost seemed unfair. Their path through the bracket included YAKA (Noisy-le-Sec), Mooncup (Brussels) and jinX (Berlin), who were all in the top five teams in the division1, and none could get closer than 3 points away from the Italians.
So Germany and Italy are the dominant forces in the division. But France’s mixed teams had huge success this year and YAKA remain a force. Great Britain won silver and the Czech Republic bronze at EUC, and Iceni (London) and East Block (East Bohemia) both made quarters at EUCF. Troubles (Warsaw) made semis!
So, who finished where? Here’s the top 25 female-matching players according to our voting panel. The voting panel included Ultiworld European editor Sean Colfer, Ulti.TV commentators Benjy Rees, Hannah Pendlebury, Stef Rappazzo, Lorcán Murray and Hive editor Lu Burgess, as well as former Ireland and Ranelagh coach, and current blogger and author at bettereverydaycoaching, Ian French. Several current players and coaches were also included but were granted anonymity to express honest opinions.
1. Anna Gerner (Germany & jinX)
Gerner is an offense all to herself. She’s a world class handler, as we saw at the World Games, but was seemingly better than ever for Germany women when freed of the responsibility of being the main handler, able to attack upfield more and create havoc for defenses wherever she went. Her knee injury was a huge blow for fans of European ultimate but she was able to return for EUCF and help lead jinX to the final.
2. Charlotte Schall (Germany & BFD Shout)
The reason Germany didn’t miss Gerner as much as expected was the meteoric rise of Schall. She was brilliant at under-24s as a D line driver, but it was at EUC where she went nuclear. The center of an amazing performance in the final by the Germans, she showed she’s among the best players on the continent already. A starring role for Shout’s D line followed, and she was very good at WBUC and for 6ixers at US Nationals as well. Expect to see more in the coming years.
3. Levke Walczak (Germany)
Walczak hasn’t been seen much on this side of the Atlantic recently. She won WUCC with Revolution, USAU Nationals with Brute Squad and has been recognised in the Ultiworld awards across the pond. She was fantastic for Germany at EUC but the team was knocked out by eventual champions France in the quarters so we didn’t see her in the final stages. There’s nothing she can’t do offensively, and she’s a more than capable defender as well. The prospect of her joining forces with Gerner and Schall for Germany’s women’s team going to Australia is unbelievably exciting.
4. Sarah Eklund (Sweden & jinX)
Eklund has been around for a long time and has been unguardable for basically all of it. Her height, speed and conditioning mean she can get free under or deep against almost anyone in Europe, and her throwing ability means she’s able to drive the offence if the opponent sells out to stop her deep game. She was massive for Sweden at EUC despite carrying an injury2, huge for jinX and was one of the centerpieces for a European masters’ win as well this season.
5. Eva Bornot (France & Mooncup)
Bornot made the World Games team last year as a teenager and has continued to evolve her game. She was part of a stingy, athletic D line for France at EUC but morphed into a central O line handler for Mooncup in the build up to EUC. She excelled in both roles, showing off the versatility she’s developing. Another of the faces of France’s exciting new generation.
6. Irene Scazzieri (Italy & BFD Shout)
Scazzieri was injured in the final of xEUCF in 2021, sustaining a knee injury that kept her out for much of the following season as well. That is the only time since 2018 that Shout were not crowned European champions. She’s been a force for the national team as well with her tireless cutting, effective throwing and defense and, more than perhaps anything, her unrelenting dedication to winning. She’s a fierce competitor and it’s contagious for everyone around her. It was great to see her thrive on the American stage with Fury this season too.
7. Floor Keulartz (Netherlands & GRUT)
Another of the GRUT players that has been around for so long you forget how young they actually are. Keulartz still has room to grow and is already a complete offensive player. She’s one of the best deep cutters in the game, demonstrated by her 46 goals3 at EUC, but can also throw and create for an offense. Defensively she’s very good, but there might be room there for her to continue growing. Playing in the women’s division next season will be interesting, and seventh might look crazy when we look back in a few years.
8. Kristýna Tlustá (Czech Republic & East Block)
Some of the players on this list dominate with a run and gun style; by taking big shots and running down hucks. Tlustá is more small ball. The 20-year-old’s diminutive stature means she’s unlikely to win jump balls over and over but it does mean her speed in and out of breaks is startling. Good luck covering her in small spaces and preventing the give-and-go chemistry she’s developed with her Czech and East Block teammates.
9. Lena Trautmann (Germany)
Just as with Brute Squad teammate Walczak, we haven’t seen Trautmann in Europe outside of national team duty this season. Every time you see her, though, you see a defensive masterclass. She’s a very good offensive player as well, one dimensional players don’t get this high on a list like this, but her defense is about as good as you’ll find anywhere. Her effort, instincts and athleticism mean she’s a walking block.
10. Rachel Naden (Great Britain & Reading)
Naden captained GB women to a silver medal this year and played in the mixed division for Reading. She’s one of the best deep threats in Europe but is able to play basically anywhere on the field and on either line. Her gravity makes a huge difference to any team and her competitiveness sets the standard too.
11. Lison Bornot (France & Mooncup)
The elder Bornot is just as accomplished a player as her sister. As well as being one of the captains for the French team that conquered the world in LA, she’s a European champion from EUC and was excellent for Mooncup at EUCF. An excellent defender and a very assured thrower, she’s an all-around threat and will be a fixture on lists like these.
12. Anne Minnaard (Netherlands & GRUT)
The queen of the high release had a brilliant year with GRUT and the Dutch women’s team this year, but the thing people may well remember from this season was her turn with the open under-24 team. Marking and being marked by male-matching players all week didn’t seem to faze her at all and she made more than one young man look very stupid. It doesn’t really matter who’s marking her, she’ll get a break out if she wants to.
13. Leila Denniston (Great Britain & Deep Space)
Denniston has been one of the best players in the mixed division for years. There isn’t really a weakness in her game, as she plays as a crucial O line cutter for Deep Space but was a brilliant defender for GB. She plied her trade in the USA for Xist this season as well, and it was great to see her show that she’s more than good enough for that stage too.
14. Nicole Lafiata (Italy & Tequila Boom Boom)
Lafiata really stepped up this season and made a name for herself. She was the main female-matching player for the silver-medal-winning Italy mixed team and was a huge threat for Tequila Boom Boom at EUCF. She’s tall and fast, but she can’t be underestimated as a thrower, either. Italy may have another star on their hands here.
15. Hannah Yorweth (Great Britain & Deep Space)
Yorweth is a player that has been known about for some time in the UK, but hasn’t put all the obvious tools she had into a consistently dominant season. After some teething issues with GB women, the lefty was absolutely brilliant at EUC, particularly at the sharp end of the tournament, and maintained that for the Deep Space D line in their run to UK and European titles.
16. Sarah Melvin (Ireland)
Melvin was amazing as Ireland women won gold at EUC in 2019, but had taken a few years away from playing as much and was coaching Ranelagh this season. She played with the Irish mixed team at EUC, though, and showed what we’ve all been missing out on: a dominant cutter who can make toasting people downfield look depressingly easy. Hopefully we don’t have to wait too long to see more of her with boots on in the next few years.
17. Martina Kmecová (Austria & BFD Shout)
Kmecová was a breakout player of the year last year and continued that growth this season. Her height makes her a fantastic deep defender and she’s an offensive threat who looks aggressively downfield with the disc and can use the same aerial prowess to score goals. She was huge for Shout at EUCF and looks set to be one of the dominant defenders in Europe for a few years.
18. Lola Dam (Netherlands & GRUT)
Speaking of dominant defenders. Dam stepped back from the sport slightly in the middle part of the season but returned for GRUT at EUCF and looked like she hadn’t missed a beat defensively. Her throwing looked a little rusty and that held back her offensive production but the talent is clearly here for her to be one of the top 10 players next season if she’s fully back in with GRUT’s women’s team.
19. Maria Castillo (Belgium & YAKA)
Castillo is a fantastic player to watch because she plays with no fear. She unleashes huge hucks, torches defenders both deep and under with her elite speed, and leaves her feet to fly in for blocks and catches when needed. Her performance at EUCF against France is a perfect encapsulation of that watchability.
20. Monika Zaczkowska (Poland & Troubles)
Zaczkowska is undoubtedly one of the most underrated players in Europe. She’s athletic enough to play downfield as a cutter and a good enough thrower to drive an offense. She’s also an outstanding defender and an excellent leader who has led Polish teams for years. Her partnership with Grazyna Chlebicka was a huge factor in Troubles getting to the EUCF semis.
21. Anna Ceschi (Italy & BFD Shout)
Ceschi was formerly one of the most formidable defenders in Europe, able to lock down basically anyone, whether handler or cutter, with great top-end speed and enough agility to dominate in short space. She now applies those talents to offense and her throwing ability and excellent decision making means she’s one of the central players for Shout. She’s another who’s an excellent leader, setting the tone with competitiveness and spirit.
22. Kyoko Binnewies (Germany)
Binnewies was the only player at EUC to have won a second gold medal. She won her first with Germany women in 2011(!). Her longevity is testament to two things: her athletic ability and dedication to staying in shape, and her ability to read the game at an extraordinarily high level. She always seems to be a step ahead of the defense and has the throwing ability to punish whatever they leave her.
23. Elena Benghi (Italy & BFD Shout)
Shout will need to replace some talismanic players in the coming years, starting with Laura Farolfi who retired after EUCF 2022. Benghi is one of the players who will be stepping into those leadership roles, based on her play for the last few seasons. She’s tall so an effective downfield defender but it’s on offense where she really stands out. Huge range on her throws and her ability to aggressive options downfield means she’s very, very difficult to defend.
24. Barbora Hrušáková (Czech Republic & East Block)
Hrušáková is another of the most underrated players in Europe. She was a huge part of the Czech women’s team that won a bronze medal at EUC this year and plays a central role in the offensive buzzsaw that is East Block. Her understanding with Tlustá, in particular, is great to watch.
25. Francesca Sorrenti (Italy & BFD Shout)
Sorrenti is one of the best throwers in the women’s division. When the wind was howling in Limerick she was one of the few that could complete passes downfield. Her backhand, in particular, is such a weapon that opponents have to game plan around stopping it. She continued her strong season for Shout and kept the offense moving with precision and consistency.
And could reasonably be second through fourth in non-official rankings as Mooncup had defeated fourth-place Troubles (Warsaw) earlier in the tournament. ↩
You can see the bruising on her knee in this photo. ↩
To go along with 16 assists. 62 stats in 6 games. ↩